Nuclear Fission Simulation Chain Reaction Chemistry Assignment

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WebQuest: Fission or Fizzle? Will a potential fission reaction continue on its own or fizzle out? What conditions are needed to initiate and sustain a fission chain reaction? Use the Nuclear Fission Simulation to investigate. Part I. Fission: One Nucleus Select the “Fission: One Nucleus” tab to bring up the screen shown here. Practice firing the neutron gun at the U‐235 nucleus and observe what happens. Use the pause button if needed. 1. What happens when the U‐235 nucleus is “hit” with a neutron? Describe how the nucleus changes and identify the products that form. 2. How does the simulation convey the high kinetic energy of the daughter nuclei? Part II. Chain Reaction Select the “Chain Reaction” tab. Take a minute to compare the particles shown in the legend at the right of the screen. How are they different? Locate the sliders at the bottom right that allow you to control the number of U‐235 and U‐238 nuclei present. 1. Set the initial number of U‐235 nuclei to 100 and U‐238 to 0. What happens when you fire the neutron gun? Click “Reset Nuclei” to see if the same results occur each time. a. How are the results obtained with 100 U‐235 nuclei different than the results obtained in the “One Nucleus” simulation? b. Does what you observe meet the definition of a chain reaction? Why or why not? 2. Click “Reset Nuclei” one more time. Before you fire the gun, click the “Pause” button at the bottom of the screen. Now click the red button to fire the gun. Use the “forward step” button to the right of the play button to advance the neutron frame by frame. Click the forward step button multiple times to view the reaction in slow motion. a. What are the products of each neutron/U‐235 collision? b. How many neutrons must collide with a U‐235 nucleus to cause fission? c. Do all emitted neutrons collide with U‐235 nuclei? 3. Click “Reset” and then set the initial number of U‐235 nuclei to 0 and U‐238 nuclei to 100. Try multiple times to start a chain reaction with the U‐238. a. What are the products of each neutron/U‐238 collision? b. What is U‐239? In what ways is it different from U‐238? c. U‐235 and U‐238 are chemically identical—they undergo the same reactions with other elements. How are U‐235 and U‐238 different when it comes to nuclear reactions? 4. Natural uranium is a mix of isotopes. The majority is U‐238 and less than one percent is U‐ 235. In nuclear reactors, engineers can “enrich” uranium to adjust the ratio of U‐238 to U‐235 present. Explore how changing the ratio of uranium isotopes affects the reaction. a. Set the initial numbers of U‐235 nuclei and U‐238 nuclei to the numbers in the table below. Record your results. U‐235 100 70 50 30 0 U‐238 0 30 50 70 100 % of 235U nuclei fissioned after 1 firing # firings required to fission all 235U nuclei N/A b. How does increasing the percentage of U‐238 affect the chain reaction? c. If you were asked to design the most efficient nuclear fission reactor possible, what ratio of U‐235 to U‐238 would you use? Explain why. ...
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School: Carnegie Mellon University


Fission or Fizzle
Part 1. Fission: One Nucleus
Answers to Questions
1. When the U-235 nucleus is "hit” the total energy is raised as temporary U-236 nucleus
formed, which oscillates back and forth, but ultimately fissures into 3 neutrons. Ba-144
and Kr-89.
2. The high kinetic energy of the daughter nuclei is displayed with the rapid separation of
the nuclei on the screen. The chart on the simulation also shows that the total energy is
constant while potential energy decreases, suggesting that the...

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